The Sunday Leader

Not Who Split The Party But Who Can Bring Unity?

President Maithripala Sirisena and ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa are now engaged in a finger pointing exercise of: Who Sir? Me Sir? Not I Sir. Who then Sir? over who split their party.

This is a futile exercise to go through in this country where no one admits his mistakes.

A better trend of the debate would be on who could unite the party and lead it to victory at elections not only for the sake of the party but for the benefit of Sri Lanka.

How and why Rajapaksa lost the Presidential election and why Sirisena won has been debated over and over again. What is at issue now is not the presidency but the leadership of the SLFP. Thus it would be relevant to determine how Maithripala Sirisena came to be elected the leader of the party.

The method of appointing a party leader of the SLFP is not clear. Whether it is by tradition, accident or design, ex-president Chandrika Kumaratunga who lost the leadership of the party after her presidency could probably explain it best.

Nonetheless, there is a belief among the SLFP membership that if a person is the president of the country, he or she should be the party leader. It is held by some that it was this belief that led to Mahinda Rajapaksa to be the party leader.

Even after his defeat in January 2015 Rajapaksa was the leader of the SLFP though Sirisena was the President of the country. This was an anomalous if not paradoxical situation. Was the defeated president to remain as president and party leader while the victorious president to be under him?.

To the credit of Rajapaksa he gave up the leadership of the party without much fuss or bother and Sirisena became president thus effecting a smooth transition.

Rajapaksa with that move indicated that he was following accepted democratic norms. The most recent example of such a move was by Britain’s former prime minister David Cameron who resigned from his office as prime minister as well as the leader of the Conservative Party although no law or tradition demanded such resignations from a leader whose stand at a referendum was rejected.

However, though defeated Rajapaksa does not consider himself vanquished he obviously longs to be back in the saddle and be what he was though the people have rejected him twice. Besides the 19th Amendment to the Constitution prevents him from being president. Taking full control of the SLFP would be an initial step.

President Sirisena is not only in command of his party but parliament as well, going by the huge recent majorities with which controversial legislation was enacted.

Rajapaksa has some raucous MPs – many not in his party – backing him attempting to convey the impression of a massive political support for the defeated president.

There are party members outside parliament too demonstrating their support for Rajapaksa. These party members and supporters are attempting to create chaos and unrest in the country and cause embarrassment to President Sirisena. More disturbing are the daily demonstrations and some trade union actions initiated by these pro-Rajapaksa elements to the extent that they prevent smooth functioning of government.

Although the government that President Sirisena heads comprises the majority of UNPers, most of his problems are problems of his own party. Like a true democrat he has tolerated dissent but he has to distinguish between dissent and revolt.

His crackdown on leading critics and opponents of his regime within his own party is a move in the right direction. Key electoral organisers who brazenly attacked President Sirisena’s government have been removed and new appointments made. Their attacks on the government are likely to intensify after this crackdown and even sterner disciplinary action may be necessitated.

The SLFP is one of the two main political parties of the country and its well being is required for economic progress and well being of democracy. It is unfortunate that the former president and his supporters are not observing the rules of democracy, leaving an elected government to run its term. Certainly opposition to a government is called for but it has to be in accordance with democratic rules.

Rajapaksa perhaps does not understand the functioning of a democracy at times when a country is free of Emergency rule. For a very great time of his political career commencing from1970 till 2009, the country was ruled under Emergency law – three insurrections intervening. Most demonstrations now being staged would not have been permitted under emergency law which prevailed during his 9-year tenure in office. As a senior politician he should set an example on how to conduct himself as a democrat in the opposition and not practice political chicanery behind the curtain.

The question before SLFPers now is whether a president of a stable government or a defeated leader twice rejected by the party, now in the political wilderness desperately searching for a way out, could unite the party.

 

2 Comments for “Not Who Split The Party But Who Can Bring Unity?”

  1. Lima

    THE MORE YOU KEEP JARAPAKSA SUPPORTERS ALIVE , THE MORE THEY CREATE TROUBLE. TAKE ONE BY ONE OF THE LEADER WHO DEMONSTRATES OR PROTESTS. FINISH OFF ,. BY DOING THIS FOR ONE OR TWO , THE REST WILL GET THE MESSAGE AND THEY WILL GO TO OFFICE WORK , THEN GO HOME AND REST. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY. THE COUNTRY PAY SALARIES NOT TO PROTEST BUT TO WORK . DO THIS FOR TWO OR THREE LEADERS BY REMOVING THEM FROM THE FACE OF THE EART.H. THEN THEIR FAMILY WILL ADVISE NOT TO TAKE PART IN ANY KIND OF PROTEST OR DEMONSTRATION. LET YOU GO LIKE OTHERS TO WORK AND COME BACK. SIMPLE ARITHMETIC

  2. dan

    Have you forgotten fact that President Maithripala Sirisena was elected by UNP voters but not SLFP voters . Also He never did anything to Win the SLFP MPs
    in the Last general Election. Then how can he be the Leader of SLFP voters?

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